Author Topic: Do I need a new boiler?  (Read 713 times)

randomstring

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 71
Do I need a new boiler?
« on: September 16, 2018, 04:29:25 PM »
We are embarrassingly new at house ownership.
Our house has an oil fired boiler. Used for heat. It is of unknown age, has very patched up and rusty look and is probably from the 70s.

It probably works. The boiler was working when the house was inspected in December. It was also working in May, when we closed. Something was probably not set up correctly with thermostats, since it kept going off when temps were in the 80s. I shut it off and decided to revisit the issue in the fall.

Well the fall is here, and I am having some contractors come out to price a new boiler out. But it occurred to me that perhaps I should keep existing one and have it be fixed/adjusted?

Some photos of the boiler https://krylphoto.smugmug.com/Other/House2/Boiler/n-SMpX8P

( the heating system is baseboard. I can't tell if hot water or stream -- no valves, probably hot water?)

Jon Bon

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 491
  • Location: Midwest
Re: Do I need a new boiler?
« Reply #1 on: September 17, 2018, 08:01:34 AM »
No idea.....

BUT find a guy and find him quick. Get it looked at in September, not December. You dont want to have to pay the 40% premium for someone when its cold outside. IME with heating systems you can usually limp along for another year if you pay close attention to the system and dont abuse it.

Good luck.




lthenderson

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1139
Re: Do I need a new boiler?
« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2018, 08:33:01 AM »
I don't have experience with working with boilers but with any major appliance like that, I look at whether to fix or buy new this way. Find the expected annual efficiency savings you will get by buying a new and presumably new boiler. Divide the new cost of a boiler by the efficiency gains/year to figure out a payback period. Now honestly assess how long you expect to live in that house. I'm guessing the payback for a new boiler is probably in the order of a decade or two. If this is your first house, most likely you won't be living there that long. I would probably be inclined to troubleshoot the old one first and if it is an easy fix, to just do that.

randomstring

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 71
Re: Do I need a new boiler?
« Reply #3 on: September 17, 2018, 10:05:09 AM »
Thank you for replies, all this makes sense. Our current sentiment is that the house is probably a keeper for the next 20 years ( this is our house-to-retire to, purchased about a decade earlier ).

But this might also change -- 10 years ago I thought I would move abroad yet here we are.

My main question is -- do boilers normally look this bad? We saw a lot of houses when we were looking to buy, lots with old boilers. Lots looked beat up but most were not rusty. But then again maybe it's ok, given that it is the casing is rusty?

I also suspect that this is indicative of bigger issue of the house being too humid. In that case maybe I should sick with old boiler until we address the humidity.

Jon Bon

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 491
  • Location: Midwest
Re: Do I need a new boiler?
« Reply #4 on: September 17, 2018, 10:29:29 AM »
Wait you have had this house for a decade?

So the boiler was always this rusty? Or has gotten that way recently?

I feel like you should be a expert on boilers after 10 years with having one!

Basement humidity is a real thing. Outside grading/sidewalks paired with bad gutters is almost always the issue.

randomstring

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 71
Re: Do I need a new boiler?
« Reply #5 on: September 17, 2018, 12:44:58 PM »
Sorry, bad explanation. We had the house for 3 months. We intend to retire in 10 years and the house is where we intend to retire. In other words at least right now we are planning to keep the house for 20 years ( 10 years before and 10 years after retirement ). This is to say that we don't mind making long term capital improvements but they need to be something that is actually worth improving and not just cosmetic.

This house has had a lot of delayed maintenance so lots of it looks pretty bad. We will be slowly addressing the most pressing things over time but it is hard to figure out what is most pressing. ( e.g. For example we have crumbling retaining wall which is causing our shed to slide into ravine. But a structural guy saw it and mentioned it will take 10 years to actually become critical, so even tho it looks terrifying we will leave this work for later. )

Lulee

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 166
  • Location: NH
  • "We'll jump off that bridge when we come to it."
Re: Do I need a new boiler?
« Reply #6 on: September 18, 2018, 04:06:26 PM »
Not a homeowner so take with grain of salt but that looks like a replace job to me.  It looks as if water/steam was escaping around places where gaskets should have been and this is the cause of much of the rust and why it seems concentrated around entry points into the boiler.  You could also have holes in the internal section which is allowing moisture/steam to continue to come out and rust the boiler from the internal structure outwards as well as waste huge amounts of money (saw this on an episode of Ask This Old House).

While lots of the external stuff like pipes and pumps look good, you can see in some pictures where the metal is rotted nearly through and in other pictures the mastic/cement stuff they tried to patch with appears cracked which likely means it isn't sealed properly any more.  There's not a real clear picture of where the exhaust comes out of the boiler but it does kind of look like the mastic/cement stuff they tried to patch where the pipe meets the boiler is cracked as well and there's rust around it.  If you're not getting a good seal there, you're risking exhaust gases in your basement.

Jon Bon is right about taking care of this now instead of when it fails during the cold of winter which is, inevitably, when these things give up the ghost.

randomstring

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 71
Re: Do I need a new boiler?
« Reply #7 on: September 28, 2018, 11:58:22 AM »
Here is an update on the boiler saga. We got a quote to replace boiler from Big Plumbing Co. Quite frankly they were the only ones that returned my call out of 5 that I contacted. The quote they have is to replace boiler is 9-18 k, depending on which boiler we choose. This is strictly for heating, not hot water, and they would not be adding new zones. The house is 2 floors, 2k square feet.

I am a bit shocked. I expected 5-8k. This is twice as much.

The visit from big plumbing co did yield something useful. The guy mentioned that rust is probably from external moisture. And that boiler is from early 90s. ( this I figured out myself from googling. )

I am still trying to get someone to give us a second quote but at prices like this I am tempted to just use existing one until we fix moisture problems.

BudgetSlasher

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 523
Re: Do I need a new boiler?
« Reply #8 on: September 28, 2018, 06:19:19 PM »
2 thoughts on boiler replacement. And then some others.

First you may wish to have the boiler serviced. Here this is a service offered by our fuel oil company (for a price) and they can undertake basic repairs. This should include a test of boiler efficiency after cleaning and tuning. They can also tell you if you need need to seriously be considering replacement or if rust is only superficial. (I lean towards its beyond superficial). Also you may need to rely on this boiler until it is a good time for a contractor to come out and do the replacement.

Second, I would not put the skill set need for a replacing an oil boiler too high (BUT I have not done one). Basic electrical would be needed (simply changing over the wiring low and line voltage). Basic plumbing for the water (heck shark bites are even rated to 200F if you cannot sweat copper) and for the oil line (my line has a compression fitting and a ss clad hose on the end). Some basic duct work might be needed to adapt the flue. The biggest stumbling blocks in my mind are the weight of the boiler and making sure you get a properly sized one (the manual J calculation makes my head spin and you can't trust that the current boiler isn't just rule of thumb and then add 10% or otherwise oversized).

Also if you live in an area where ULSHO (Ultra Low Sulphur Heating Oil, 15PPM) is the law of the land you should do your research on a condensing fuel oil boiler. That is if they are sold and serviced where you live, they might not have made their way to the US.

My boiler is also from the early 90s looks pretty much brand new. But it is in a basement that is dehumidified and until recently also did domestic hot water (running the boiler during the summer can help prevent internal rust issues) also it is service at least once a year (it should be twice if it will be running year round on hot water duty). For your boiler the two things that give me pause are the exterior rust (but only because it leads me to worry that similar damage has occurred in the fire box, if the boiler has had long periods of inactivity) and the goop that is liberally applied around the burner (but that could just be an ill informed DIY'er trying to address an issue beyond their skills.

If the rust is due to an internal leak you probably are looking at a replacement. But the rust could also be from the the boiler being cool from sitting in the basement during the summer and when humidity finds its way into the basement is condenses on the large cool chuck of iron in your basement.

randomstring

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 71
Re: Do I need a new boiler?
« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2018, 12:39:45 PM »
Update 2 on boiler. We have sceduled 2 more estimates and a boiler cleaning. We are also now running the boiler. It works! It is very loud and looses heat ( the utility room gets warm ) but it works. We also decided to buy oil from the same co as previous owner and got some idea of their use. Apparently the prior owner used quite a bit more oil than average last season. 4 full tanks vs 3.

I am also wondering now if we can add hydronic floor heating to one of the rooms that seems to be very cold.  The floor in that room needs work ( carpet plus possibly water damaged plywood below. ). That floor is also accessible from crawl space if we ever need access to pipes. However I am reading very conflicting information on this, and in general people seem to be recommending electrical floor heating for its simplicity.

Sigh. The house continues to surprise us with how much needs to be done to it, and local contractors continue to surprise us with how expensive everything is.

Roadrunner53

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1412
Re: Do I need a new boiler?
« Reply #10 on: October 15, 2018, 12:52:13 PM »
I have an oil fired boiler. We have lived in our home since 1975 and are on our 3rd boiler. The first one was not that expensive because we built the house on a tight budget and got fairly bottom of the line unit. The second one was closer to top of the line and lasted many years. We just had a new one installed about 5 years ago. It is really top line. You get what you pay for.

First I would suggest you do business with the oil company. Normal oil companies are full service. They will sell you oil, install new heating systems and I would strongly advise getting a service contract which normally includes a cleaning and efficiency test each year. If you get a service contract, that will include them coming in the middle of the night and most parts. One call pays for the contract and you should have the unit cleaned each year.

The oil company will determine if the unit is functionally safe to use. If the unit that you have now is unsafe, they will condemn it and not allow you to use it. These technicians are licensed and know what they are doing.

Good luck on the boiler.

BudgetSlasher

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 523
Re: Do I need a new boiler?
« Reply #11 on: October 15, 2018, 07:13:31 PM »
Update 2 on boiler. We have sceduled 2 more estimates and a boiler cleaning. We are also now running the boiler. It works! It is very loud and looses heat ( the utility room gets warm ) but it works.

Great to hear there is a service scheduled and for the moment it works.

Have you had an oil boiler before to compare noise? I have a Buderus G105 (a petty good boiler) that is well maintained and I wouldn't say it is quiet. I can tell you when the boiler turns on or off anywhere on the first floor (it is in the basement) even if the fan running (yes the house came with a hydro-fan setup, using a boiler to run forced hot air). All boilers loose heat to the environment, it is just a matter of how quickly; having the boiler inside of the conditioned envelope negates any issue this causes.

Quote
We also decided to buy oil from the same co as previous owner and got some idea of their use. Apparently the prior owner used quite a bit more oil than average last season. 4 full tanks vs 3.

There are a lot of reasons that could cause that. Maybe it was colder last year, they decided to turn the temperature up, or they failed to get the boiler cleaned before the heating season. Of course it could be a more serious cause.

Quote
I am also wondering now if we can add hydronic floor heating to one of the rooms that seems to be very cold.  The floor in that room needs work ( carpet plus possibly water damaged plywood below. ). That floor is also accessible from crawl space if we ever need access to pipes. However I am reading very conflicting information on this, and in general people seem to be recommending electrical floor heating for its simplicity.

My first question would be why is the room very cold? Is it due to a lack of existing heat or is it due to poor insulation and air infiltration?

In our circumstances I would never do electrical heat for anything beyond a space heater run a few minutes while showering (and that is mostly due to the heaters already being installed when we bought the house). Anything that would be constantly used to maintain temperature ... I would choose something other than electric, even if it were a direct vent propane space heater line a Rinnai. But that is due to the cost of oil vs the cost of electricity per unit of heat and your results may differ.

Adding a new zone for radiant floor heat is likely possible. It could be a lot of work, which if hired out could cost a fair bit. But this is a DIY sub-forum; so are electrical work, soldering, and plumbing work in your skill set?

MMM did radiant heat (http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2014/02/16/the-radiant-heat-experiment/ and http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2015/02/06/the-radiant-heat-experiment-did-it-work/). He didn't use an oil boiler as a heat source, but it will give you an idea. They do make subfloors that integrate channels for radiant heat pex.

Quote
Sigh. The house continues to surprise us with how much needs to be done to it, and local contractors continue to surprise us with how expensive everything is.

Welcome to home ownership. Constantly they either need something or have something you need to keep an eye on.